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Golden Knights need more from top line against Capitals in Game 5

Marchessault says 'it's on us to step up' in Cup Final

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Every team wants balanced scoring and contributions from all of its players. But regardless of the team, the top players, especially the first line, should shoulder the bulk of the production.

Vegas Golden Knights left wing Jonathan Marchessault knows that.

"We are here for a reason," Marchessault said before the Golden Knights lost to the Washington Capitals 6-2 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday. "I think everybody chipped in, but we're definitely … I think it's on us to step up. At the end of the day, you need to get those big goals. I think we're pretty happy to get a couple of chances, but for our group it's not good enough. I think we need more."

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith carried the Golden Knights in the regular season, combining for 213 points. Karlsson set NHL career highs in goals (43), assists (35) and points (78). Marchessault had 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) and Smith had 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists), each an NHL career high in points.

That carried over into the first three rounds of the playoffs, with a combined 47 points. Marchessault had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists), Smith had 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) and Karlsson had 13 points (six goals, seven assists).

But from the top line down, the Golden Knights have struggled to find consistency and production against the Capitals. They'll try to change that in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). Washington leads the best-of-7 series 3-1. 

Vegas has scored five goals in its past three games. Of those, only one has come from the top line; Smith scored in the third period of Game 4.

Video: Bill Lindsay on top lines, John Carlson

In the Cup Final, the top line has eight points. Smith has four points (two goals, two assists), and Karlsson has two (goal, assist). Marchessault has two assists and hasn't scored a goal since May 16, when he scored two in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

However, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said he liked how the first line played Monday for the most part.

"They came out and started the game the way we wanted to start the game," Gallant said Tuesday. "A couple of unfortunate bounces, and we're down 3-0. Our guys are playing hard, they're playing well, and they'll be ready to go.

"Like I said, Washington is a good hockey team. Their top line is a pretty tough line that's playing against them every night, too. So, it's a battle for ice out there, and we're trying to do the best we can. Hopefully a couple of breaks and the goal by Reilly Smith last night will get us going."

The top line isn't the only one struggling. Gallant adjusted the lineup entering Game 4, playing forward Tomas Tatar on the third line with Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter and moving Alex Tuch to the second line with James Neal and Erik Haula. Vegas also had some bad breaks, the biggest when Neal hit the far post on its first power play in the first period.

"Just maybe some puck luck or just not bearing down," Tuch said. "It happens. It's hockey. It's a game of inches and sometimes it doesn't go your way and it hasn't so far. But hopefully we're able to turn that around for Game 5."

Despite the result, the Golden Knights said they played the right way in Game 4. But moral victories only go so far. Vegas needs goals and a Game 5 victory, and needs its top line to produce. 

As Marchessault said, it starts with them.

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